6 Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat More Healthy Foods

I grew up eating a lot of junk food. I mean A LOT. There were a couple of convenience stores close to our house and my sister and I spent a considerable amount of time walking or biking to these treasure troves of candy for our beloved treats- potato chips, jujubes, chocolate bars, chewy big feet, ring pops, garbage pail candies, ice cream bars, hamburger shaped gum, freezies and much, much more. In fact, aside from Archie comic books and stickers, most of our money went directly to candy.

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And I mean – we are still alive and thriving. We lived to tell the tale. And I’m happy to report that we have both adopted much healthier eating habits. But I will tell you this from my perspective: making that transition was and continues to be really freakin’ hard. Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with almost every single day (if you want to test that theory just put a bag of Doritos in front of me and see how long it takes for them to disappear ; )

So what’s wrong with treating our children with junk food? As parents, we love our kids and we want them to be happy and nothing makes them happier than a gooey caramel chocolate bar right? Well, here’s the rub – the occasional treat might be okay but routinely plying our kids with goodies actually makes it much more difficult to convince them to taste and enjoy healthier foods.

When young children routinely indulge on sugar-laden foods,their taste buds become conditioned to crave sugar, creating unhealthy habits that follow them into adulthood.

Dr. David Sack

It has taken a considerable amount of effort and will-power on my part to reprogram my taste buds to embrace healthy whole foods. And because it has been such an uphill battle for me, I am passionate about instilling healthier eating habits into my own children. Yes they certainly enjoy their treats but I want to make sure that they eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains and nuts. And it’s not simply to establish healthier eating habits but also to safeguard them from the fallout of excessive junk food consumption including; obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and tooth decay. Not to mention the research that suggests sugar may be as addictive as cocaine and other drugs.

Instead of getting overwhelmed or trying to overhaul your whole diet, I recommend making a few simple changes to encourage children to eat more nutritious foods. Here are 6 suggestions:

1. One Chug or One Bite – in our house we have a “one chug” or “one bite” policy on all new foods and drinks. It can take quite a few tries for children’s’ taste buds to adapt to a new veggie, smoothie or tofu stir fry so as long as everyone at least samples something new I don’t force the issue.

2. Be a Supermodel – Do you make negative comments about your own body or eating habits? Are you open and willing to try new foods? Our children are like little sponges and they are much more likely to pay attention to our actions than our words. Instead of lecturing kids about their eating habits, model healthy eating yourself by limiting sugary desserts and processed foods in favour of more nutrient dense choices.

3. Get Cooking – my children are much more likely to try something if they’ve had a hand in preparing it. I encourage them to pick their favourite recipes from my collection of cookbooks and I get them in the kitchen to help with chopping, stirring, blending and simmering.

4. Healthify Your Favs– there are tons of great blogs and websites featuring healthier versions of classic kid-friendly dishes. Think about some of your kids favourites and do a search for equally delicious but more nutritious recipes. Here are a few goodies for Mac and Cheese, Nachos, French Fries, Veggie Burgers and Lasagna.

5. Make It Fun – depending on the age of your children, new foods can become much more appealing if they are cut into fun shapes or given interesting names (“Green Monster Smoothie” or “Power Athlete Chocolate Almond Milk”). I’ve also had good luck with these funky straws and food games like “vote for your favourite colour of grape” or “blindfolded taste tests”.

6. Eat Together – Although our busy schedules do not allow for us to eat together as a family every night of the week, we do try to sit down together for dinner as much as possible. This gives me an opportunity to try out new dishes and to model healthier eating habits for my kiddos. And I try to refrain from making separate “child-friendly” meals because studies have also shown that children who eat the same foods as their parents actually have much healthier diets.

Most importantly of all – don’t get stressed out! There is enough stress in our lives that we don’t need the added burden of monitoring every bite that goes into our children’s mouths. Stock up your fridge and pantry with lots of healthy choices, offer up a variety of nutritious foods at meal times and do your best to embrace healthy eating habits for your children to model.

I keep reminding myself that if I do my best to encourage nutritious foods then perhaps my own children won’t suffer from the same internal strife every time they pass by the chocolate bar display at the drug store or walk through the chip aisle at the grocery store. It’s an uphill battle but I’m winning goddamit! (Curse you all-dressed chips!)

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Check Me Out On Tuja Wellness!

The good folks at the online health publication Tuja Wellness ran a Nutrition Rockstar contest back in the summer and I was the lucky winner!  Thanks to the generosity of Meghan Telpner and the Tuja peeps- I have been happily soaking in an abundance of knowledge from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition via their Culinary Nutrition Expert Program.

Another wonderful bonus to winning the contest is that I get the opportunity to write a column for Tuja. How freakin lucky am I?! If you haven’t heard of Tuja then make a beeline for their site and sign up already! It’s an amazing online resource for anyone interested in enjoying a healthy, balanced and happy life.

And of course they only use the most brilliant writers ; ) My first contribution for Tuja went up on their site on Saturday so hop on over and check out my 6 Worry-Free Tricks To Keep Your Family Healthy Through The Holidays”.

I hope you enjoy a wonderful and healthy holiday season! And thank you Tuja Wellness for this early Christmas present.

Over Halfway through! My Top 5 “A-Ha’s” From the CNE Course So Far

Hey there – Nutrition Rockstar here! As we head into mid-November,  I’m now over halfway through the Meghan Telpner Culinary Nutrition Expert Program. My brain is literally spilling over with information and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to participate in this powerful and positive life-changing endeavour.

This program has offered me everything I had hoped for and more. Within each comprehensive module, I’m learning about the power of food, how to prepare healthful and delicious meals, the science of healthy eating, how to avoid the pitfalls of healthwashing and “bad”vertising, how to extract medicine from food, how to live a healthy, balanced life and how to have fun and enjoy the process. And the best part is that I’m able to do the entire course from the comfort of my own home! I get the kids off to school, whip up a Dandy Latte, fire up my computer and settle in to learn from Meghan and her amazing team of experts.

Before I share my top 5 list from the first half of the course, I want to let you know that Meghan will be running this program again next fall and she has just opened up a limited time registration with the option of a 10-month payment plan. Trust me -if you are at all interested in learning more about nutrition or perhaps becoming a Culinary Nutrution Expert yourself – this is a gift that you simply must give to yourself. Just click on the CNE banner above or below to find out all about the program. And you can always contact me directly if you’d like more information about my experience (or if you’d like me to whip you up a superfood concoction with my newly acquired culinary skills ; )

And now onto my list! It was really freakin’ hard to narrow it down to just 5 things because my notebooks are literally filled to the brim with life-changing information, research and recipes. But after careful consideration, here are my Top 5 “A-Ha” Lessons from the first half of the CNE Course:

1. Preparation is Key – life is busy, busy, busy and it’s often easier to just hit up a drive-thru or order a pizza than to think about making dinner. But if you can spare an hour or 2 a week to plan out your meals and prep your ingredients – you’ll save time and money and your entire family will reap the myriad benefits of eating healthy, nutrient dense food.

2. Stop Counting Calories! – Ok seriously – this is one trend that I could never fully get behind. There’s just something about counting calories (and counting steps for that matter) that really seems like a surefire way to suck all of the joy and fun out of life. I’ve learned from Meghan that all calories are not created equally (thus the epidemic of people who are overfed and undernourished) and that it’s much more important to focus on nutrient load by eating whole, fresh, unprocessed foods than to worry about each and every bite.

3. Organics All the WayMeghan’s equally brilliant husband Josh Gitalis led us through a comprehensive module on “The Fundamentals of Nutrition“. I literally took notes until my fingers ached as he taught about the importance of healthy soil, fresh water, organic plants and the key macro and micro nutrients in our diet. One of the biggest “ahas” from this section of the course for me was learning about the difference between organic and inorganic farming. Did you know that the following things are prohibited from organic farming (but are often used on conventional farms): GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizer, sewage sludge, drugs and radiation. Yeesh! Whenever possible – try to support farmers who are committed to organic farming principles so that you can enjoy the most potent nutrient rich food.

4. Don’t Fear the Fat – I was a teenager when the whole “low-fat” craze really took hold. I remember happily chowing down bags of candy and thinking I was following a perfectly healthy low-fat diet. Doh! There are tons of misconceptions about fats and sadly as a result of misleading advertising and healthwashing, many of us have become fat-phobic. But the truth is that our bodies need healthy fats for energy and optimal health (did you know our brains are 60% fat?) So don’t be afraid to incorporate healthy fats into your diet – nuts, avocados and raw, cold-pressed oils are a great place to start.

5. It’s Not Just About The Food– although the food we put in our bodies is a key to enjoying optimal health, there are also other factors that contribute to overall wellbeing. Meghan recently wrote a blog post about “Vitamin G” – the gratitude vitamin! Taking the time to feel grateful for the blessings in your life can have a major impact on your health and happiness. Also things like reducing stress (why not give meditation a try?), getting out into nature, finding a form of exercise you love, cultivating supportive and nurturing friendships and finding ways to be creative and have fun will all contribute to a joy-filled life.

Culinary Nutrition Expert ProgramI could literally go on and on about the lessons I’ve learned from the CNE course so far. Things like; why we should eat more plants, the importance of regulating blood sugar, how to use food as medicine and the straight poop on foods like dairy/meat/gluten/and white sugar. And I promise I’ll share more tidbits of wisdom in an upcoming post. But for now, I’ve got to get back to my studies! It’s not easy being a rockstar…but it sure is a lot of fun ; )

An Imperfect Rockstar

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about an amazing contest that was being run by Tuja Wellness with the prize of a scholarship to Meghan Telpner’s School of Culinary Nutrition. They were looking for a “Nutrition Rockstar” – and I am thrilled and humbled to announce that I am the very lucky winner. I am beyond excited to dive headfirst into the learning that is jam-packed into this incredible course.

Actually, “Rockstar” is quite a fitting moniker for a gal like me given that I already like to think of myself as a young, fun-loving, cool, plant-eating vegetarian hipster. Something of a “green smoothie goddess” if you will. A veritable whiz kid in the kitchen – my family gobbling up my kale and quinoa-laden dishes just like they were candy.

Ok yes – the reality might not be quite so rosy. Actually, I’m just a 40-something mom- neither as young or cool as I used to pretend to be who’s mostly just trying to keep my family healthy and well-fed. And by “healthy” I mean getting them to ingest their green smoothies without gagging or complaining bitterly. And by “fed” I mean with as much humour, taste and nutrient-rich plant foods that I can reasonably achieve and afford.

Funnily enough, our first assignment in this course is to craft our very own food philosophy. Something along the lines of the brilliant Michael Pollan who wrote:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

In Defense of Food

So I started wondering about  my own personal credo and I’m thinking that maybe something simple like my lofty goal of keeping myself and my family healthy and well-fed might be a good place to start.:

“Feeding a family of meat-free, animal-loving, plant-munching, green-drink guzzling hipsters.”

Lori Wilson

That sounds pretty darn  good! I’ll start with my own clan and then branch out and hopefully my honest approach to cooking and eating will inspire a few others along the way. My goal is that in addition to my own growth and learning, I will also share the ups and downs of this educational journey with all of you.

Yep – I’m going to pick up that “Rockstar” title and run with it goddamit! Thank you to Tuja Wellness and Meghan Telpner for taking a chance on me – a decidedly imperfect rockstar. I am dancing around my kitchen, belting out a tune and strumming my wooden spoon air guitar as I get set to cook up some culinary magic. Let the fun and learning begin!

 

 

Lori Wilson – Nutrition Rockstar

I can confidently define myself a number of ways: mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, voice-over actress, writer, small-town girl, Western grad and lover of 80’s pop music. Those labels are 100% me. But “nutrition rockstar“? I’m not so sure.

Yes it’s true that I’m a plant-based foodie and that I love to prepare healthy foods for my family. And yes I’m willing to experiment with new ingredients and recipes to create culinary masterpieces in my kitchen. But here’s the rub – I fail just as many times (if not more) than I succeed. For every “Mmmm…mom this is yummy!” I get an equal number of “I can’t drink any more of this smoothie – I just gagged twice” and “quick get me a drink of water so I can swallow this stuff down!”

And it’s not just the kids – it’s me too. Most days I smugly start off the morning with lemon water followed by a glorious green smoothie. And then there are the days that I groggily hit up the Starbucks drive-thru for a grande soy latte and a sesame bagel. I can rock a Kathy Freston 21-day cleanse with as much vigour as I can spend the whole day lounging poolside sipping Prosecco and eating junk food with my girlfriends.

Like most people, I have a long and complicated relationship with food. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30’s that I decided to make a major shift in my eating habits and it’s been a journey of self-discovery, successes and setbacks. And I certainly haven’t unlocked the secret formula- I still have a LOT to learn. But for me, a diet free of animal products and rich in plant foods (and the occasional hunk of chocolate) has been the best fit.

The good folks at Tuja Wellness in partnership with nutritionist Meghan Telpner are giving away a scholarship to the fall Culinary Nutrition Expert Program and I would dearly love to win it. They are looking for a “Nutrition Rockstar” and the more I think about it, I wonder if perhaps I wouldn’t fit the bill. I certainly don’t consider myself to be better than anyone else – quite the opposite. I’m just like most of you. A regular person weaving on and off of the path healthy living with more than my fair share of bumps along the way. But I am confident that there are some lessons to be mined (and connections to be made) if I take this incredible program and continue to honestly share the inevitable ups and downs and screw ups and successes that will unfold.

I have wanted to take this course ever since I took my first cooking class in Meghan’s pink kitchen back in 2011. I was immediately drawn to her passion for real, whole, unprocessed ingredients and her impressive knowledge of the transformational power of food. However with 3 young children, there has always been something else for me to spend the tuition money on (Do you know how much it costs to outfit a young hockey goalie? Or the expense of competitive dance? Or that kids grow so darn fast you have to keep buying them practically a whole new wardrobe every single year?!)

But maybe the time has come for me to really focus on myself. I’m open and willing to learn and I’m determined to keep steering myself and my family towards making more nutritious choices. And I’m not going to quit even when my 4-year-old tells me that his smoothie looks like brown mushy poop. Or when my daughter dramatically rolls her eyes when I announce what’s for dinner. Or even when I finish off a day of healthy eating by sitting on my butt watching So You Think You Can Dance with a big bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine. Because after I throw myself a little pity party – I will pick myself up and try again. In my heart I know it’s worth it. And all things considered – doesn’t that sound kind of like a Rockstar?

 

 

 

Quinoa, Black Bean and Fresh Cilantro Salad

My kids aren’t the biggest bean fans (even though I keep telling them they are the musical fruit) so I have to be a bit sneaky to get them into their diets. This salad has a generous helping of nutrient dense black beans and against all odds – my kids will eat it. Although you can see the beans in this salad, they are so mixed together with the quinoa and other ingredients that the kids kind of forget about them.

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This is a flavourful and fresh grain dish that can be served either warm or cold and keeps beautifully in the fridge for a few days. I like to make up a big batch on Monday and have it for a hearty lunch or quick dinner a few times during the week. You can even pop some into a wrap with a bit of hummus or throw it over some mixed greens for a more traditional salad.

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Quinoa is considered a superfood because of its wide range of nutritional benefits. It is high in protein, fiber, iron and calcium and it is gluten-free which makes it easy to digest. And when you combine the quinoa with protein-rich beans and super-detoxifying cilantro you end up with a power-packed meal that is tasty and a breeze to throw together.

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Yes, the beans can make you a bit…ahem…gassy. But this is actually a good thing to mention around your kids. Trust me, nothing works better than a good fart joke when you are serving a new dish to your family.

Quinoa, Black Bean and Fresh Cilantro Salad

quinoa salad

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup uncooked organic quinoa
1 1/2 cups of low sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame beans
1 15 oz can of black beans (I like Eden Organics brand)
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and sauté for 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned.

Rinse and drain quinoa at least 3 times under cold running water. Add to saucepan and cover with broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in corn and edamame and continue to simmer (covered) for 5 minutes until heated through.

Mix in black beans and cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

Who Do You Trust?

When it comes to taking control of your own health and the health of your family it can be very confusing to figure out exactly who to trust. We live in a world where an abundance of information is at our fingertips and we are constantly bombarded with stats, figures and products that promise to make us thinner, more beautiful, fitter and healthier.

Our family doctor tells us one thing and a naturopath will say something completely different. You read about a new superfood or drug in your favourite magazine and the newspaper reports contradictory information about the same darn product. Television, medical journals, radio, books, blogs, our friends and family, health professionals, alternative medicine practitioners, healers…..who are we to believe?

I personally began on a path of health and wellness about 6 years ago. Having grown up on a mainly junk food diet (I’ll fill you in on this in a future post), I started to question what I was putting into my mouth and conventional ideas about nutrition. I read a lot of books, I took courses, I did research, I spoke to many different professionals, I asked some hard questions and although I am still learning I am slowly beginning to figure out for myself what I understand to be true about the link between diet and overall health.

I honestly don’t think there is only one right answer and you will figure out what feels right to you and makes you feel good about your health and nutrition choices. Remember that it’s a process – be curious (how much training does your family doctor really have in the field of nutrition vs. pharmaceuticals for example?), do your own research (you might want to ask who is actually sponsoring that new study – might it be a company with a stake in the profits?) and then decide for yourself who to put your faith into….because you can be sure there are a lot of professionals, advertisers and corporations that are much more concerned with the almighty dollar than what is the best and healthiest choice for your family.

This point really came to light recently when I saw a video posting from one of my own personal favourite bloggers and a man that I trust has good information that he is willing to share. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff writes the Weighty Matters blog and is a family doctor and professor in Ottawa with a specialty in obesity. He was recently invited by the Ontario Medical Association to present to a group of professionals from the Food Industry as part of a conference on Health and Nutrition policies and 3 days before the event he was unceremoniously un-invited and told he was no longer welcome. Why? Watch the video below and see for yourself….